Benchtop Laser-Based Radiocarbon Analysis System

Block Diagram of Laboratory Radiocarbon analyzer

Invention Summary:

Drug metabolism studies require highly sensitive radiocarbon (C14) detection. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is a gold standard method for drug metabolism and related studies, but the high cost, low speed, complexity and large footprint of AMS instruments prohibits on-site testing. While liquid scintillation counters have a more compact footprint, they do not provide the necessary sensitivity for many drug studies.

Researchers at Rutgers have developed a low-cost, benchtop, laser-based system for quantification of C14. Using the optogalvanic effect (OGE), it is possible to detect C14 at concentrations as low as one part per trillion. Recent developments have led to new electronic circuitry and new calibration algorithms that further increase the sensitivity and stability of this optogalvanic spectroscopy method. These improvements have greatly improved both reproducibility and dynamic range.

This system will enable more rapid, inexpensive, and sensitive testing of radiocarbon, leading to acceleration of the drug development process. 

Similar Technology:

Market Applications:

  • Carbon-14 detection
  • Drug development
  • Carbon dating
  • Environmental monitoring


  • Small samples ~ 10µg
  • High sensitivity (1 part per trillion)
  • Low cost and high speed
  • Easy to use benchtop system
  • Large dynamic range

Patent Information:
Wenjuan Zhu
Licensing Manager
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey